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Old 10-02-2013, 08:59   #16
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Location: Homer, AK is my home port
Boat: Skookum 53'
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Re: Why Sail?

Here is another edition of the trip.
“What if we don’t find the islands??” husband Dale asks in
a hushed tone that mirrors my own lurking worries at the
scope of our audacity. Endless rumpled water spread
below us to the curving horizon.
What we were about to do strikes me full in the face
like the sun bouncing off the curve of the troubled ocean far
We had driven our rental car up to a little farm store
high above San Diego to find unwashed eggs and un-stripped cabbage and lettuce to add to our jumping off provisions. In
a couple of days, we will sail for the Marquesas, more
than two thousand miles to the southwest.
Averaging 100 miles a day, we estimate that the
crossing will take about a month and stocking our
47 foot sail boat, Rodonis, for six hearty eaters is our
immediate challenge. But the view from the ridge
brings the bigger question to the fore.
“Guess we’ll just keep on sailing,” I reply, with more
bravado than confidence. My assurance is reinforced
somewhat by the fact that Tom Monroe, captain of our
buddy boat, Desperado, has taught celestial
navigation and has been coaching me, via VHF radio,
for over a month while we were underway from Alaska to
San Diego . I have a lot of faith in him, if not my own
nascent navigating skills.
While my husband skippered our newly-purchased vessel,
I served as navigator, learning celestial from a thin
little book called, “Ten Easy Steps to Celestial
Navigation.” Hah! My training was augmented by a lot of
help from radio contacts who confirmed my fix or
laughed in my ear.
We had been under sail, sort of, since August,
gunkholing from Seward, Alaska down the inside
passage, then the west coast, learning sailing and
celestial navigation on the water. But that was just
coastal meandering except for one longer haul across
the Gulf of Alaska . We were always within comforting
radio reach of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Now it’s November. The Pacific hurricane season is
allegedly over and we are finally off on the first leg
of our intended circumnavigation of this marvelous
mysterious planet.
By Thanksgiving we’ll be way past that curve of the
horizon, beckoning and intimidating us way out there
beyond San Diego .
Committed. Maybe we should be committed to some safe
With our family of three teenagers and one contentious
nephew, we had set sail in August, having cut all our
land ties through the spring and early summer. Our
inspiration, I swear, had been the movie
“Windjammers” that had enthralled us with visions of
exotic cultures on distant islands, back in the late
50s when we were newlyweds. Our strongest motivation,
although never spoken aloud, was getting our teenagers
away from the hazards of the drug-infested public
school system in Anchorage . We were also bent on
extricating ourselves from indoor jobs.
It is our last full day ashore and we’re laying in the
last of the provisions.
Unlike the frequent trips to neighborhood groceries
for three or so items that had been our lifelong
pattern, this shopping trip required planning ahead.
Way ahead. And reckoning without refrigeration in the
Provisioning for a major crossing with six people on
board, four of whom are voracious growing teenagers,
can be daunting, but we’re surrounded by fellow
cruisers at the San Diego Yacht Club who are eager to advise us. We’re equally eager to learn. Many of them have been out there for years and have refined the techniques.
Rule number one is to know the tastes and habits of
your crew. With ours this is easy; we’re basically
meat and potatoes Middle American stock and we have a
good start on both staples. While tied up in Seward,
severing the last of our home ties, the kids motored
out to the salmon grounds daily with our Zodiac,
returning with their limits. Nights were devoted to
canning with our big pressure cooker, on our kerosene
galley stove. While we were in the canning mode, we
also put up quarts of diced potatoes, quartered onions
and sliced carrots. These, plus a deer we had
harvested from Green Island and canned, formed the
basis for dump stew. Recipe: Open a quart each of potatoes, carrots,venison and onions, dump into a kettle and add a
little corn starch and seasonings mixed with water to
thicken, Instant dump stew. This staple came in very
handy, especially while our teenagers were taking
their turns on galley duty. Just for good measure and
knowing the breakfast preferences of our crew, we also
canned bacon and sausage.
Because we’ve been advised not to take anything glass on
board (to avoid the hazard of broken glass) we had experimented
with the metal canning but didn’t feel the sense of
security that comes with the solid ping when the glass
jars seal. So we disposed of the canner and bought a
pressure cooker. We wrapped each glass jar in layers
of newspaper, which served to augment our reading
material and provided a little perk for the galley
slave. “Oh, here’s the Sunday funnies! Think I’ll unwrap
this jar for lunch." Provisioning, we learned, roughly
follows the divisions in a grocery store. Protein,
starch, fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods of
all kinds, and condiments. It’s a lot like shopping for
home. The main differences come with the long range
planning and in handling fresh stuff. It was the 70s,
and Costco hadn’t yet arrived on the scene.
Provisioning for subsequent crossings from that giant
and other bulk dealers, we find the process somewhat
simplified now and some of the products more seaworthy
in airtight and watertight containers.
Eggs, we were told, must be fresh, unrefrigerated and
unwashed. Farm source would be best. Next best thing
was the farm store above San Diego , to which our
fellow sailors directed us.
Opinions differ on how to preserve the eggs; wax and
Vaseline are the two preferred methods. Not wanting
to offend any of our advisors, and with a sense of
experimentation, we do half with wax and half with
Vaseline. Figuring we’ll average a dozen a day and the
crossing would take about 25 days, prepping the eggs
is a big job. We assign our youngest teens, Cris and
Dan, this messy, time consuming task of preserving 25
dozen eggs.
Meanwhile, we’re off to buy more stuff. The cockpit is
full, the deck stacked and we really don’t believe all this stuff
will fit in the limited storage below. But somehow it
does. We inventory each cabinet and drawer as we stow
so each of us can find what we need when it’s our turn
on galley duty. Ideally, we’ll cross off items as we
use them, but we find in actual practice this doesn’t
happen with enough regularity to give us an accurate
We select fresh produce with an eye to durability.
Squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, celery,
carrots, and cabbage all fare well if bought from the
farm, unwashed and still wearing their outer leaves in
the case of cabbages, onions and lettuce. We use the
same “cabinet life” gauge for fruit, limiting our stash
of fresh to mostly apples and oranges. Like the glass
jars, each piece of produce is carefully wrapped in
newspaper to isolate and preserve it. Canned fruits
and vegetables fill out the menus, with sauerkraut an
adequate substitute base for salads.
Storms, we know, will make even our perfect slot
galley a difficult place to do much more than open
cans so we keep that in mind as we shop.
Unlike the stable home kitchen, the galley is often
tilted at a 45-degree …sometimes steeper…angle, requiring the
chef to reserve one hand for hanging on. And of course
it tilts the other way when we change tacks. We learn
to time our cooking when we’re on the most propitious
tack. The starboard tilt allows the chef to brace his
back against the engine compartment and use both
Another major difference in feeding a family at sea is
the fact that one person is on duty at all times.
That means high energy finger food will be in demand
for those long night watches when no one is up to brew
you a cup of coffee or hot chocolate or make you a
sandwich. Breakfast bars, raisins and trail mix fill
a large handy snack bin.
Our teens don’t have the luxury of eating like teens.
No space for empty calories; no sodas and very few
chips. Cheese and crackers, juices and cookies baked
at sea provide snacks. Most missed by all is ice
cream; the first luxury we sought when we finally
reached our first “civilized” landfall, Papeete , Tahiti .
Almost dawn. November 20, 1977. Three days to
Thanksgiving, but we can’t wait to celebrate that
holiday on shore. Hurricane season is past. We’re
fully provisioned rigged and ready. Friends held a
bon voyage party for us last night and it’s really time
to go. We ease out of our slip and past the warships
in San Diego Harbor . Will we ever see America again?
We sail away from the sunrise, away from the coast.
Away from our homeland. And toward an adventure that
will alter all our lives and our perception of this
glorious planet we inhabit.
Ignoring the realities of sea, we plan to raft up with
Desperado to celebrate Thanksgiving. Right. That was
a landlubber fantasy. The holiday finds us riding
swells that put our buddy boat totally out of sight
half the time. Only slightly daunted, we go to plan
B. We each cook half the meal, passing turkey, lemon
pie, and mashed potatoes to each other in buckets
extended on pike poles with hit and miss timing when
we crest swells in a semblance of sync.
Our saddest day at sea is one sunny afternoon when
Cris spends hours in the galley baking cookies to
share with her friends on Desperado.
Finished at last, she wraps the goodies in waterproof
blue plastic and, when the two boats close with each
other, tosses the package. It sails through her friend
Dawn’s hands and bounces merrily on its way down the
wake of their boat.
Days and nights of growing respect for the elements
and the lessons they teach our family under sail are
recorded in six different hands in our priceless ship’s
log. We also note pure throat-swelling joy at the
24-hour sky show, not that we need to write about
these experiences to remember them. Milkyway and
constellations fading into peach and gold sunrise.
Bunched squall lines marching in from the horizon,
warning us to reduce sail. Rain bringing fresh water
showers as we all try to discretely and discreetly
bathe on deck and hurriedly rinse the shampoo out of
our hair before the squall blows over. The sheer
luxury of coming below off a long hard storm watch,
slurping a hot chocolate, falling into a lee bunk and
reading a few pages of a current book before
exhaustion drags me warmly down, down, down into
secure sleep, knowing my totally tested and trusted
crew family will handle any crisis.
Did we find the islands? Twenty-three days out, we’re
still glassing an endless expanse of blue wedded to
another 360 degree blue sky span separated only by
lumbering flat bottom clouds promising much needed
rain we can catch to replenish our tanks.
My still unproven navigation indicates we should sight
the island-hung clouds that will tell us that the
Marquesas are dead ahead. Today.
It’t 6:00 a.m. Change of watch. Dale comes up the
companionway and hands me a steaming cup of
freshly-brewed coffee. As he reaches for the helm, he
asks the big question again,this time with some
anxiety. “What if the islands aren’t there??” He has
watched me slowly snake the pencil mark across the big
Pacific chart for 23 days, supposedly confirming our
course. With the world looking the same each morning,
he finds it hard to believe we’re actually moved across
the ocean.
I believe the islands will appear. Sort of. “I guess
we’ll just keep on sailing,” I say again. “But they’ll be
there.” I sound more convinced than I feel.
Now it is mid-afternoon and I’m below decks, working down
another sun sight with a new worry nagging at the
fringes of my mind. “What if we close with land in the dark!”
“LAND HO!!!?” Cris is up in the portside rigging,
pointing ahead and a little to the left. “LAND HO!!!” She yells again,laughing with pure joy. We swarm on deck, jumping up
and down, pointing and screaming happily across the
water to the Monroes . Sure enough, a long telltale
cloud with a couple of dark peaks under it is just
crawling up the distant horizon.
And the race is on. Never mentioned, the entire
passage has been an undeclared contest. Now Desperado
hoists her spinnaker. We don’t have one but we hank on
our biggest jenny and lunge toward distant Nuka Hiva.
It doesn’t matter who wins. We have made our first
And our kids are hooked. The minute the anchors are
set, the teens on both boats immediately drop the
matched sailing dingies from their davits and go
racing! The Monroe girls win, but only, our youngsters
assure us, because they have an aluminum mast and
ours is wood. They don’t mention that our racing
crew includes some big boys, matched against their
lighter weight girls.

Christmas day. At anchor in Taiohae Bay on Nuka Hiva, one of the more populated islands of the Marquesas.
We’ve been here almost a week, and we invite new friends from
other boats and a few island residents to dine on the
last of the eggs. No, I don’t know which lasts better,
waxed or Vaselined. The waxed were cleaner to open so
they got used up first. I scrambled the
Christmas eggs with lots of strong cheese, onions and
fresh green peppers and tomatoes purchased from a
farmer at the east end of the island. The eggs were a
bit aromatic and a little too runny to fry.

We joyously celebrate the conclusion of the first leg of what was to be our ‘round the world’ cruise.
" Wisdom; is your reward for surviving your mistakes"
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:16   #17
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Re: Why Sail?

Oh, how evocative!
Your Mum's love of sailing shines through so strongly.

My favourite description:
The "pure throat-swelling joy" she experienced.

Thanks for sharing this .
SWL (enthusiastic amateur)
"To me the simple act of tying a knot is an adventure in unlimited space." Clifford Ashley
"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea." Isak Dinesen

Unveiling Bullseye strops for low friction rings
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:34   #18
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Re: Why Sail?

Because my kid almost died too many times.
Because my wife is out of the wheelchair.
Because the bank stole our house.
Because anchoring is free.
Because of the Flying Mobula we saw this morning along with dolphins and jellyfish and frigate birds and pelicans instead of looking around at 4 white walls wondering why.
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Old 10-02-2013, 09:40   #19
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Re: Why Sail?

Thanks for the great read!
Tilting at windmills...sigh, always tilting at windmills
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Old 10-02-2013, 10:06   #20
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Re: Why Sail?

very nice!
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 10-02-2013, 11:35   #21
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Re: Why Sail?

Thanks for the responses, my Mother is almost 80 and she is still kicking my heel about sailing with me, and I of course welcome her as soon as I can get clear or the dock.
sww914, those are all excellent reasons to throw off the lines. Also you only live once. Life is uncertain eat desert first!
Personally I think we have all been sold a bill of goods regarding security, safety, and the standard of life we would like to become accustomed to. As it has been said by wiser heads than my own "you don't own possessions, they own you.". I can only speak for myself, my happiness quotient did not increase with my income level, some of my happiest times were when I was fishing my own ragged out commercial fishing boat that was a danger to me and all around her, and living in a 1 room cabin with no running water or electricity. I will soon be there again sans the cabin, and if I can't get there with my boat, I ain't going.
" Wisdom; is your reward for surviving your mistakes"
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